American Election Results 07/11/2012


I'm feeling very unsettled about the results of the American Presidential Election, which greeted me as I woke this morning. Four more years for President Barack Obama.

Not surprising really; Americans like two-terms, in fact there have only been three one term presidents since World War II. The most recent one term president who lost his bid re-election was George H.W. Bush, a Republican who was beaten by Democrat Bill Clinton in 1992.

I live in the UK but feel that the US Election is important as the USA is our strongest ally. What goes on there affects us in so many ways. It dictates where we might be called to go to war, what our society finds acceptable socially, how our economy does.

One might say that the election could be summed up in one simple sentence: General Motors is still alive, Osama Bin Laden is dead. Barack has achieved these two things at least and they spoke to two essential areas of US political life. Domestic affluence and international defence. Coupled with the fact that his challenger for the Presidency appeared as somewhat of an extremist to much of the population, that was probably enough for most people who voted for what they saw to be the more reasonable candidate.

John Simpson said that a huge sigh of relief has been breathed across the world. Republican supporters say that Obama has destroyed the country over the last four years. To be honest, I thought the economic crisis was a legacy from the Bush administration?

The Tweeter Londiniensis summed it up like this:


The hyperbole and vitriol on display during the campaign from both sides upset me, and detracted from a reasoned debate, which should focus on policy and morality. Both sides seemed to spend much more time demonising the other candidate rather than discussing the issues (especially, (and worryingly) for example, the fiscal cliff).

With regard to Romney's religious beliefs, whilst I find some elements of Mormonism very difficult to reconcile with reality, I know good Mormons who believe strongly in the right stuff: family, honour, loyalty, truth, respect.

I also think we have to respect everyone's religious individuality, we have to allow everyone to practice their own religion, no matter whether it seems difficult to believe to us. This is as relevant to the newly elected President's policies as it is to Romney's Mormonism. I'll be honest, I fear religion when it leads believers to brand as heretics anyone whose understanding transcends there own; when it becomes adversarial, turning its followers against the world instead of trying to mend the world; dividing instead of uniting.

The reality we have to acknowledge (everyone, not just religious people) is that today, our side holds power, but tomorrow our opponents may hold power, thus we must grant religious liberty to all, as long as they are loyal to the state. Liberty is thus essential in order to preserve a space where freedom of conscience is sacrosanct regardless of who holds power. Power is not to be used to impose truth, but to preserve peace. The religious significance of liberal democracy is precisely that it secularises power. It does not invite citizens to worship the state, nor does it see civic virtue as the only virtue. It recognises that politics is neither a religion nor a substitute for one.

Religion is about the truths that do not change, politics is about things that constantly change; working with consensus. Politics is all about mediation, negotiation, compromise. Religion refuses to compromise.

The Bible separates kingship from priesthood, ascribes ultimate authority to God, thus subjugating human authority to divine power and setting it moral limits. The people had the right to rebel against a tyrannical king, a point which eventually led to both the American and English revolutions. 

For these reasons, I cannot condemn Catholics who voted for Barack Obama, who saw his care for those less fortunate in society as something quintessentially Christian. Yet, personally, I look at Benghazi, the drone strikes, his stance on abortion, and I really find myself conflicted. Is Obama's human rights record as good as we perhaps assume?

I want to believe in Barack. I was really proud that America had moved on to the point where they had elected a black President. He is articulate and reasonable. But I have so many questions about the direction he is taking. Would Mitt have been any better? I guess now we will never know. I did have some faith in his ability to understand business and wealth creation, although he seemed bent on doing it at the cost of environmental concerns. Morally, he was no Rick Santorum, less than clear on numerous important issues.

I wonder how much one person can actually drive the agenda of a country like America anyway? 

Yes I know abortion is just one issue, and I know that we are far more used to turning a blind eye to it here in the UK, but my conscience keeps pricking me and suggesting that we must be single minded in the pursuit of justice.



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